BY NT FRANKLIN
Copyright is held by the author.
GREG SLOWED the car and studied the convenience store through the driver’s window. “There’s a good candidate.”
Tammy reached over and touched his arm. “We don’t have to do this. We can ask my parents for money.”
“Yeah, right. Your old man doesn’t think I’m worthy of you. We’ll do it our way.”
Greg turned the car around and pulled into the empty store lot and left the engine running. He took a deep breath and handed a gun to Tammy.
“Oh, God, no! A gun. Greg, no.”
He shook his head. “It’s not loaded, it’s just for show. Put it in your pocket and wave it around if you have to.”
“Can’t we just ask my parents? We’ve never asked them for money to help out. You don’t know what they’d say.”
“C’mon, showtime. Out of the car.”
Not knowing what else to do, she climbed out of the car and followed him into the store. Tammy’s heart was pounding and she wondered what she’d got herself into.
The door chimed when he opened it. He sauntered down the main aisle leading to the cash register, grabbed a bag of pretzels and approached the lone clerk, who was ogling Tammy.
“Where’s the beer cooler?” Greg asked.
The young kid behind the counter looked to his left and pointed. “Over there, Einstein.”
When he turned back to Greg he was looking down the barrel of a Barretta 9mm. “Shit, I didn’t mean it.”
“Drawer. Money,” said Greg.
The door chimed again.
“Shit.” He cocked his head back and said, “Go get rid of them.”
Tammy didn’t move.
“Drawer!” Greg repeated.
The clerk opened the drawer and started pulling bills out and putting them on the counter.
“Hey, you’re out of sour cream and onion chips again.” Tammy turned and saw a woman holding a tiny baby in one arm and two bags of plain chips in the other. The woman walked up to the counter and froze when she saw the gun leveled at the clerk.
“You should go away,” Tammy told the woman.
“Too late for her,” Greg said. “Behind the counter with the boy genius.”
She dropped the chips and went behind the counter.
“Pick up the money, Tammy,” Greg ordered.
Tammy stuffed the bills into the plastic bag the clerk put on the counter. Her hands were shaking so much that some of the bills landed back on the counter.
Greg shifted his feet. “Hurry up.”
The woman moved away from the clerk, creating distance between them.
“You have the money, now please go,” she said.
Greg was backing away from the counter when the clerk suddenly reached down and under the counter.
Greg shot him through the heart before he could straighten up. Tammy screamed and the woman with the baby ducked behind the counter.
“We need to get out of here,” Tammy said.
Ignoring Tammy, Greg moved around the end of the counter. He saw the woman sitting on the floor pulling a weapon from an ankle holster. He fired and the woman fell flat to the floor. Tammy screamed again. Greg grabbed the baby and walked to the door.
“Not the baby!” cried Tammy. “It’s just a baby.”
“Here, take it,” he said. He handed the bundle to Tammy. “It doesn’t have a mother now. You wanted to have a baby so, it’s a win, win.”
Tammy and Greg were walking down the aisle when Tammy looked back and saw the woman crawl around the end of the counter. From the floor, she aimed, and shot Greg in the back of the head. He crumpled to the floor with a thud, blood pooling around his head.
Tammy looked at Greg, then looked at the shooter. The woman swayed, her eyes rolled back, and she fell back to the floor. Tammy looked around at the carnage, at the baby in her arms, and started shaking She headed to their car.
Tammy sped off into the cold, foggy night, not sure of where to go other than out of town.
Roberta put her phone down and grabbed her coat and keys.
“Another call out, Honey?” her husband asked from the couch.
“Three nurses. I have to go in and cover. You knew this would come with the ER nursing supervisor job.”
“You go, ‘Calm Robbie’, give ‘em hell,” he said.
“You know your nickname for me stuck at work, don’t you?”
He just smiled.
Both of their phones buzzed. Roberta looked at hers and announced, “Amber Alert. I hope they find the child.”
“It’s crappy outside. Drive safe.”
“Always. Love you. Explain it to the kids. Gotta go.”
Roberta was driving the 25 miles to town, trying to keep between the yellow and white lines on her side of the road. When the road went downhill and she slowed to twenty miles per hour, she saw the car lights in the woods.
She slowed as she approached the accident and almost hit the girl on the side of the road. Roberta stopped the car and got out in full nurse mode.
“Are you okay?” she asked the young girl. “Oh my God! You have a baby.”
“I know. We’re fine.”
“Anyone hurt in the car?”
“No, we’re alone and okay.”
To Roberta’s trained eye, there was more going on than just an accident. “Maybe I should check, in case you don’t remember everything.”
Roberta didn’t wait for an answer. She went to the car and peered inside. The engine had been turned off, but the lights were still on. A few things were tossed around inside the car, but there was no diaper bag or car seat.
Roberta walked back to her car deep in thought. “Lucky I came along for you and your baby. You need a ride somewhere? I’m a ER nurse and I’m heading to the hospital. You and your baby should get checked out. I don’t have a car seat so you’ll have to hold the baby.”
“A ride would be fine, thanks. I’ll hold the baby.”
Roberta opened the passenger door. “I’m Roberta, what’s your name?”
“And your baby?”
“Uh, um, … he’s Greg.”
“Well, nice to meet you Tammy and Greg. Hop in.”
“Thanks, that’s really nice of you. I was getting cold out there.”
“And your baby?
“Oh yes, him, too.”
Roberta fired the engine up and headed into town. “Looks like you were headed out of town. Where were you going on a night like this?”
Tammy didn’t answer but the tears in her eyes told their own story.
Roberta punched the radio button turning it on. “What kind of music do you like, Tammy?”
“Doesn’t matter. Anything will be okay.”
“I like the local station the college puts out. Not much range but the music is nice and the news is local.”
The rhythmic sounds of ‘Photographs and Memories’ by Jim Croce filled the car and Tammy began to relax.
After a time, Roberta broke the silence. “I’d worry if my child went missing, wouldn’t you, Tammy?”
“Oh, . . . yes.”
“How old is Greg?”
“Oh, he’s a year old.”
“That’s a nice age.”
Tammy squirmed back and forth in her seat, shifting the sleeping baby around, but didn’t answer.
“I didn’t see a car seat in your car.”
“Oh, it’s in my other car.”
“There wasn’t a diaper bag, either. That baby isn’t even three months old, let alone a year. He’s not really your baby, is he, Tammy?”
“I’m done talking,” said Tammy.
The DJ came on after a song and reported a news bulletin about an Amber Alert for a two-month-old baby.
“I think you should turn the radio off, Roberta.”
“I don’t think so. It helps me concentrate on the road. It’s dangerous driving in this weather.”
The local news came on about an armed robbery that went bad with deaths reported, but all the details weren’t in.
“Turn it off now,” Tammy said. “I have a gun.”
“I’m sure you do. Is this really about the radio? Did you hear that? There’s a mother missing her baby. You know that, don’t you, Tammy? And people are dead.”
Tammy burst out crying, sobbing loudly and trying to talk.
“I can’t understand you through the sobbing. Take a deep breath and tell me about it.” Roberta kept her eyes on the road looking straight ahead.
Tammy took a couple deep breaths and stopped hyperventilating. “I didn’t want to do it but Greg insisted. He shot her and then took her baby.”
“Okay. That’s a start. Go on.”
“My Daddy didn’t like Greg so he wouldn’t ask him for money. We needed money for food and for me to go to hairdressing school.”
“Uh huh. And then what?”
“So, he goes and robs a store. He gave me a gun that wasn’t loaded.
“An unloaded gun?”
“He was trying to keep me out of trouble. He loved me. He told me to take the baby. As we were leaving, she shot him in the head.”
Tammy straightened up in her seat. “I have a knife, so don’t try anything.”
“I’m just trying to get to work and help people, that’s all. I’m a nurse. We could make sure the baby is okay. I’m sure you want that.”
“I didn’t do anything. I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen.”
“That sounds about right,” Roberta said.
The DJ came on again with a new update. Greg Harrison, a twenty-nine-year old, and Albert Hays, a twenty-year-old, were killed in an armed robbery of the Casco Minimart.
“That was your boyfriend, right?”
Tammy started whimpering. “Yes.”
The DJ continued. A female off-duty police officer is in surgery from a gunshot wound received during the holdup. More updates will come when they are available.
“She’s not dead?” asked Tammy.
“Doesn’t sound like it. We could check on her at the hospital.”
Tammy reached under her shirt, drew out a knife, and flashed it at Roberta.
“Funny, I work with needles all day long, but knives make me nervous. Could you put that away?”
“I’m not messing around. I have a knife.”
“Yes, Tammy, I can see that. There’s no threat to you here, so would you please put it away. I don’t want the baby to get hurt.”
“I’ll hold it in my other hand.”
“Okay, just be careful of the baby.”
“We’re about five minutes from the hospital. When we get there, I have to go in and get to work. Did I tell you that three nurses called out and we are shorthanded? I hope it was a slow night so they weren’t overwhelmed.”
Tammy cried softly and stared out the side window.
“There’s always time to check out babies. In fact, two of the nurses on duty are mothers. They love babies. Would you like to carry the baby into the hospital?”
Tammy gripped the knife tighter and brought it into her lap.
After a silence, Roberta said, “We’re almost at the hospital.”
The hospital came into view. Roberta drove past the parking lot and parked at the emergency entrance and unbuckled her seat belt. “Do you want to carry the baby in where we can check it out?”
“You leave your car right here?”
“An orderly will move it later. They like me here.”
Tammy didn’t move.
“Or we could sit for a few minutes. What do you want to do?”
Tammy looked at the ER doors, then shifted her gaze to the baby in her lap. “I don’t know . . .”
“The off-duty police officer your boyfriend shot at the store, it’s her baby, isn’t it?”
“Do you think she’s worried about her baby?”
Tammy nodded again.
“I think he might be getting hungry, don’t you?”
Tammy nodded a third time.
“Tell you what, why don’t we go inside, feed the baby, and you can take the baby to her. She’ll be glad to see him. You could make a lot of things right by doing that.”
Tammy unbuckled her seat belt.
“Tammy, since the gun’s not loaded, why don’t you leave it in my car? And the knife too, so the other nurses don’t get frightened.”
Tammy got out carrying the baby. Roberta glanced at the seat and saw a handgun and the knife on the passenger seat.
They entered the ER and Roberta addressed the station nurse. “Melinda, would you move my car as usual, we have a baby to reunite with his mother after we check him out. Keys are in it. We’ll be in examining room 1.”
Melinda cocked her head and looked at Roberta. Gritted teeth and jutting chin were enough of a message to spur Melinda into action. She went out to move the car.
Tammy and Roberta walked through the ER and went to examining room 1. The baby started crying. “He must be hungry,” Roberta said.
She mixed up some formula with hot water. “We always keep formula here for instances like this. Would you like to feed him?”
Tammy took the small infant in her arms and he quieted down when he took the bottle.
The infant finished the bottle when Melinda appeared at the door.
“Here, hand him to me and I’ll show you how to burp him.”
Tammy handed the infant to Roberta who took several steps away from Tammy. Melinda opened the door wide and two police officers charged in. They grabbed Tammy off the chair and put on her the floor and she was handcuffed. By then, Roberta and the baby were out the door and into a secure area of the hospital.
Officer Jane McDougal was out of surgery and with her husband when Roberta came into the room carrying their son. Tears were streaming down their faces when they saw the baby in her arms.
“Michael!” was shouted in unison.
“He’s had a bit of an adventure, but slept through most all of it,” Roberta said.
“What? How . . .” asked Jane.
Roberta smiled and handed the baby to his father. “Later. You focus on getting well and being a family.”
Back in the ER, two police detectives were waiting for her. As she entered, they approached and said they had questions for her.
“Hold that thought, detectives. The baby is back with Mom, the robber is in custody, and I still have three nurses called out that I have to cover for. Unless you boys want to change bandages and put in catheters, I need to get to work. I’ll stop by headquarters when I’m off shift.”
All the nurses smiled. “Calm Robbie’ was present and in charge. All was well.